Health

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced a new strategy to accelerate the state’s vaccine rollout Monday. He also unveiled a full schedule of vaccinations that would include all age groups and categories of workers.   

Like much of the country, the rate of Kentucky’s vaccine rollout is slower than officials anticipated. Kentucky’s long-term care and health care worker programs have so far received 174,750 doses, but only 35% of those doses were administered as of Sunday, Beshear said at his first in-person briefing of the new year.

“Let me be clear, I am not satisfied with the pace of vaccination here in Kentucky,” Beshear said. “While I think it is the same across the country that’s not what I was elected to do. I was elected to do my best for you.” 

Beshear blamed the federal government for overestimating the amount of time each individual vaccination takes. He also said there appears to be less urgency to vaccinate small groups because they know they are going to receive the vaccine. 

To accelerate vaccinations statewide, Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said the state’s new priority calls for vaccine administrators to use 90% of the doses they receive within one week of receiving them. 

“The goal is to not have vaccines sitting in freezers. The goal is to have vaccines administered to willing recipients,” Stack said. 

The state still plans to prioritize certain groups over others, However, the change in guidance will mean that some people who are lower priority will ultimately end up getting the vaccine ahead of others who are at higher risk, Stack said.

Here what that looks like: Every week vaccine administrators should schedule vaccinations for the highest tiers first, but with a goal deploying as many vaccines as possible within a week then starting over again with the next shipment, Stack said. 

Find Your Phase 

Kentucky previously outlined the first two phases of the deployment, but unveiled a complete list of phases for the first time on Monday:

  • 1A – Long-term care/assisted-living facilities and health care personnel including every worker in a patient care setting such as dentists, morticians, physical therapists, behavioral health and more. It will also include lab care personnel. Group 1A is now getting the vaccine.
  • 1B – Police, firefighters and other first responders, ages 70 and over, K-12 School Personnel including anyone who might work at a K-12 building. 
  • 1C – Anyone age 60 and older, or 16 and older with CDC-defined COVID-19 high-risk conditions, and CDC-defined essential workers.
  • 2 –  Ages 40 and over.
  • 3 –  Ages 16 and over.
  • 4 – Children under the age of 16 if the vaccine is approved for this age group. 
Ryan Van Velzer | wfpl.org

Yes, But When? 

Louisville opened its first mass vaccination site on Monday, but for now its goal is to serve more than 20,000 independent health care providers working outside the hospital system such as doctor and dentist offices.

Beshear said he hopes the state completes vaccinations among health care personnel and in long-term care settings by the end of January then begins the next phase within a week of that deadline. 

Based on current conservative estimates for vaccine allotments and an uptake rate of more than 80%, more than half of every “interested” Kentuckian could be vaccinated by June, Stack said. 

In the coming weeks, Beshear said his administration will be providing information on how the general public can sign up for vaccinations either online or by phone. All vaccinations will be by appointment only to avoid spread of the virus, he said. 

Virus Update

Kentucky reported 2,319 new cases of COVID-19 — the highest ever reported on Monday — and 26 new deaths. Beshear said last week’s numbers were higher than the week before, but the data is likely obscured by the holiday backlogs.

On one hand, it’s likely that holiday gatherings have contributed to increased transmission and there have been slight increases in both hospitalization and ICU admissions, Stack said. Four of the state’s health care regions are reaching the limits of their capacities. 

Ryan Van Velzer | wfpl.org

However, many of the state’s testing sites were closed during the holidays,  which means the people experiencing the worst symptoms were the most likely to be tested. That could be an additional reason why the state’s positivity rate now stands at 11.2%, Beshear said. 

“We can’t tell you definitively, right now, whether that this this has been inflated, again, by what testing is open and not, or private gatherings over the holidays. We think it is some of both,” he said. 

Beshear said it will likely take several days for the data to reveal the truth. 

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.